hand holding a bottle of Fentanyl Citrate

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine, but up to 100 times more potent. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed to treat severe pain, and due to its powerful opioid properties, it is highly addictive and often abused. In fact, in 2020, overdoses involving this drug made up 68 percent of all prescription opioid deaths. Continue reading below to learn about the dangers of this deadly drug and the steps you need to take to treat addiction.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used in surgeries as an anesthetic and prescribed for pain relief afterward. It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and up to 50 times more potent than heroin, which means it has a higher potential for abuse. Not only is this opioid highly addictive, but also highly dangerous because the difference between a therapeutic and deadly dose is very small.

Acryl fentanyl is a designer drug and unlike its counterpart, its creation was not intended for medical use but rather recreational use. The use of “rainbow fentanyl” is also on the rise. Rainbow fentanyl contains dyes, which makes it easier to integrate and mix it into powders. It can then be made into counterfeit pills and sold as something else, such as Xanax, or it can be sold as pure fentanyl. In either case, it is extremely dangerous.

What Are Common Street Names For Fentanyl?

There are a few slang terms that are used to describe the drug. Popular names include:

  • China Girl
  • China Town
  • Fever
  • Goodfellas
  • King Ivory
  • Murder 8
  • Tango & Cash
  • Apace
  • China White
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Poison

What Does Fentanyl Look Like?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is available as an oral lozenge (often referred to as a fentanyl lollipop), a tablet, a nasal spray, an injection, and a transdermal patch.

Fentanyl sold on the street is primarily sold in a white powder form. The dangers of fentanyl are compounded when it is mixed with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, in order to obtain the “ultimate high.” The emergence of rainbow fentanyl makes this problem even worse.

How Is Fentanyl Used?

The drug can be taken orally, injected, smoked, and snorted. When prescribed by a doctor, it is usually given as a shot or as lozenges or lollipops that can be sucked on. Additionally, fentanyl provided in a medical setting can be given via a transdermal patch placed on the skin.

It is also sold and used illegally, usually in the form of powder, eye drops, nasal sprays, or pills that are made to look like other prescription opioids. When manufactured illegally, it is sometimes mixed with other drugs as well, such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and methamphetamine.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl?

Some of the short-term effects of fentanyl include:

  • Euphoria
  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Extreme happiness

It also has multiple undesirable short-term effects, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vertigo
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Respiratory depression

Why Is Fentanyl Harmful?

As one of the most powerful and high-risk opioids on the market, the drug is extremely dangerous and the cause behind countless drug overdose deaths. Though it is often used in medical settings to treat patients during and after surgery, it is frequently misused. One of the primary reasons fentanyl is so deadly is because it is difficult to determine what dosage will cause a fatal impact. Individuals often unknowingly take it with other drugs, which increases their risk of drug overdose. In fact, drug dealers may lace drugs with fentanyl, creating counterfeit pills, because it is powerful and inexpensive to produce.

Fentanyl’s ability to absorb into the skin poses additional danger when the drug becomes airborne. However, you can’t overdose or experience the symptoms of taking an opioid simply by touching the drug in any form. It is true that is absorbs into the skin, but it would take as long as several days for you to be exposed. If you use hand sanitizer or bleach, it can accelerate the exposure. If you’ve touched fentanyl by accident, simply wash your hands immediately.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse?

Repeated fentanyl misuse can lead to drug addiction and health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood instability
  • Brain damage
  • Respiratory depression
  • Cardiac disorders
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual problems
  • Weakened immune system

What are the Signs of Fentanyl Addiction?

Individuals are exposed to the dangers of fentanyl at the very first use.  Consequently, habitual abuse dramatically impacts the brain and can cause addiction. Individuals addicted to this drug can begin to have severe withdrawal symptoms even just a few hours after the drug is taken. Addiction can be identified by observing the following signs:

Psychological Symptoms

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble concentrating

Physical Signs

  • Tiny pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Cold flashes and goose bumps
  • Problems sleeping
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Gastrointestinal distress

What Does a Fentanyl Overdose Look Like?

When an individual takes a toxic amount of fentanyl or combines it with other drugs or alcohol, they can experience an overdose. Because drugs affect everyone differently, it is impossible to determine what dosage or combination has this effect. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Respiratory arrest

Due to the increasing number of fentanyl-related overdoses, many individuals are beginning to carry naloxone (sold under the name Narcan). Narcan is a medicine designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Unfortunately, due to the potency of fentanyl, naloxone is not always successful at reviving those who have overdosed on the drug. Fentanyl test strips have also been introduced into the market, so drug users can check if there are traces of the deadly drug when it’s purchased off the street.

Given that opioid overdoses are particularly dangerous, individuals who overdose on opioids require immediate medical attention, even if they have been revived with naloxone.

How to Use Narcan

To use Narcan, first, assess the situation for any signs of an overdose. Look for symptoms such as unconsciousness, slow or shallow breathing, and pinpoint pupils. If these signs are present, it is crucial to act quickly. Call 911 immediately for professional medical assistance FIRST.

Next, administer the Narcan nasal spray or injection according to the instructions provided with the medication. The nasal spray is the most commonly used form of
naloxone and is easy to use. Remove the device from its packaging and hold it with your thumb on the bottom and two fingers on either side of the nozzle. Gently insert the nozzle into one nostril until your fingers touch the bottom of the person’s nose. Press the plunger firmly to release the medication. Repeat the process in the other nostril if necessary.

For the injectable form of Narcan, carefully read the instructions provided with the medication for proper administration. It typically involves using a syringe to inject the medication into a muscle, such as the thigh or upper arm. Make sure to follow all safety precautions, including using clean needles and disposing of them properly.

After administering Narcan, continue to monitor the person’s breathing and stay with them until medical help arrives. It is important to remember that Narcan is only a temporary solution and does not replace professional medical care. Therefore, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention for anyone who has experienced an opioid overdose, even if they have been revived with naloxone.

How is Fentanyl Addiction Treated?

Detox

Detox is a critical first step in recovering from addiction because it allows the body to eliminate any toxic substances. Due to the extreme cravings that may occur, it is vital that individuals struggling with fentanyl addiction detox under the supervision of a health professional.  Withdrawal symptoms are often felt just hours after quitting and may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach cramps
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • High blood pressure

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

While fentanyl detox rids the body of hazardous chemicals, it does not completely treat the other aspects of addiction. Because of this, it is important that once the body has been stabilized, individuals follow a comprehensive treatment plan, including substance abuse counseling and drug education. These clinical practices not only address the psychological and behavioral impact of addiction, but also provide individuals with the knowledge to make smart, healthy choices in recovery.

Fentanyl addiction treatment programs include inpatient/residential and outpatient. In some cases, doctors may supplement traditional therapies with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and prescribe addiction fighting medication to help the individual help manage withdrawal symptoms that arise.

Like all opioids, fentanyl is extremely addictive, making abstaining from use particularly challenging. Holistic therapies have proven effective at reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as providing anxiety and stress relief. There are a variety of holistic therapies that target the needs of those recovering from fentanyl addiction. For example, individuals who used the drug to alleviate pain can experience similar relief through acupuncture. And those who relied on the opioid for its euphoric effects can find a natural, intense rush through adventure therapy. Finally, users who sought an outlet to deal with emotional pain may value meditation, which encourages connection to a higher power and a sense of purpose, putting concerns into perspective.

To learn about other therapeutic activities that enrich the mind, body, and spirit, consult our Wellness page.

If you or a loved one is struggling with fentanyl addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.

If you or a loved one is struggling with fentanyl addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.

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